Allow Ohio tax dollars to follow all students

The Parent Educational Freedom Act, Senate Bill 11, offers the best educational opportunity for students of both public and private schools. It guarantees parents the right to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs. As a former public school educator, I realize each child is unique; one size does not fit all. My bill will provide $5,500 per year for students in grades K-8 and $7,500 per year for students in grades 9-12. This is exactly the same benefit currently provided through Ohio’s existing Ed Choice Scholarship Program.

Let’s talk dollars. Most of us recently received property tax bills. On average, two-thirds of these dollars go to local public schools. If my bill passes, not one of these dollars will go to private schools. I repeat. Not one dollar of your local property tax money will be taken from your public schools.

Take note:

• Per pupil, public school spending increased every year since 2013.

• Due to recent passage of Fair Funding School Bill, public school funding increased about 25 percent.

• Gov. Mike DeWine proposed additional funding be added in the current legislative session.

• Over the last 10 years, Ohio public schools’ collective year-to-year carryover has increased from $3.8 billion to $8.7 billion.

• Ohio spent $12 billion from the school facilities program constructing new schools statewide.

• In 2021, Ohio public schools received over $7 billion in federal stimulus.

• School funding comprises over 42 percent of Ohio’s total budget.

• Ohio’s public schools receive approximately $26 billion per year from local, state and federal sources.

• Over the last 24 years, state funding increased by double digits.

Ohio has done a fantastic job making sure our public schools are funded. Still, over 150 school districts banded together to file a lawsuit to maintain their monopoly over the rights of parents who wish to exercise a different educational option for their child.

SB 11 critics falsely claim public schools will lose money. On the contrary, public schools will retain locally generated tax dollars leaving more money available to educate the students who remain. They would have a reduction in costs because they would be serving fewer students.

Public schools claim school choice takes “their tax dollars.” These dollars come from taxpayers. Some of these taxpayers wish to have their tax dollars follow their children to an educational option other than public school. When government gives money to a parent for Head Start programs, must those dollars be spent at a public school? No. When a student is awarded a Pell Grant for college, does it go only to a public institution? No. Was the GI Bill only good at public colleges? No. So, why can’t parents spend their hard-earned tax dollars at the school they choose for their children? School choice gives parents what they want: ability to maintain control over their child’s education. School choice offers accountability in the fact that parents, not a government monopoly, know what’s best for their children. Choice allows parents to educate their children in accordance with their own needs, desires and values.

We have seen massive changes in the last 20 years brought on by competition: land lines or cell phones; gas powered or electric vehicles; and printed newspapers or e-editions? More changes are certain to come; education is no exception. The monopoly that public schools have is coming to an end. Competition will make public schools stronger. The public school teachers I know and taught with are up to the challenge.

School choice is a national bipartisan movement. States of Iowa, led by Republican Gov. Reynolds, and Arizona, led by Republican Gov. Ducey, already passed school choice. Democrat Govs. Pritzker of Illinois and Shapiro of Pennsylvania recently won election campaigning for school choice. Fourteen additional states have bills of support in their legislatures, and West Virginia implemented school choice just this year.

I am a product of public schools; grade school, high school and college. I taught in public schools for 17 years. Our Ohio public school system is strong and well funded. As a state senator, it is my intention to keep it so. But again, one size does not fit all. For those parents who want their tax dollars to follow their children, let’s give them the freedom to do so.

Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, represents northeast Ohio, including Trumbull, Geauga and Ashtabula counties.


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